Should You Be Throwing Out Burnt Cookies?

We've all been in this tragic situation before. You're happily preparing a sheet of cookies for a night in. The ingredients are measured, sifted, poured into their respective bowls, and then mixed and formed. Finally, you place them onto a baking sheet and settle on the couch while they bake. Proud of all your hard work, you're suddenly so lost in your favorite series that you forget you're baking — until it's too late. A sharp, burnt smell fills the house, the fire alarm wails, and you're stuck fanning billowing clouds of smoke mid-panic. And at the end of it all, the only thing you have to show for this is some angry-looking burnt cookie crisps.

Well, all this setup and cleanup shouldn't be for nothing. The good news is that it doesn't have to be. A lot of people choose to trash those burnt cookies, unable to stand the sight of their singed edges. Well, contrary to what you might think, you can save those cookies. Here's how.

First, let's try to avoid the mess altogether

To avoid having to clean up a sad, burnt mess, let's tackle some common baking mistakes, so you know what to avoid. According to Betty Crocker, one big thing to remember when baking cookies is to shape each cookie dough ball evenly. If you don't, the cookies will cook unevenly and you'll be left with some smaller, overcooked biscuits. The next tip is from pastry chef and cookbook writer Eileen Gray who told Eat This, Not That! to avoid greasing your sheet (unless the recipe calls for it). This is because cookies tend to spread too thin and burn on greased sheets. Gray opts to use parchment paper under her cookies as this makes cleanup a breeze and prevents spreading. 

A third tip to avoid common mistakes when baking cookies is to make use of multiple pans. If you reuse one baking sheet to make multiple batches of cookies, the second and third batches will spread too thin, as the pan is too hot and the dough is melting before it even hits the oven. For a final tip, if you find that your cookies are consistently burning, it might be the pan itself. Take stock of your baking materials and see if it might be time to invest in a new baking sheet. (You can find an even better trusty baking companion, we promise.)

Now, you may feel tempted to trash burnt cookies if you see them appear. But should you really be throwing them out?

Why you should be saving your burnt cookies

If your cookies are only moderately burned, there is hope yet. The burnt part of your cookie is probably just the outer layer, and that inner, gooey goodness is still there. So set it free! To save your burnt cookies, the first thing you should try is sticking them on a cooling rack (via Cooks Illustrated). Immediately doing this after cookies come out of the oven stops the cooking process in its tracks, so they won't become more burned than they already are. 

Once your cookies have cooled, you can start getting rid of those burnt bits. Try shaving off the outer layer of the cookie until the golden brown hues show (via Mental Floss). You can do this with anything from a knife to a cheese grater, so use whatever you have on hand. Since the burnt outside is gone, no one will ever know those were overcooked cookies.

If you follow these steps but find your cookies are still too tough to bite into, there's a fix for that too! In a December 2016 Youtube video, Slate tackles how to make those hard-as-rock cookies soft again. Just seal them in an air-tight container with a slice of bread. The cookies will absorb the moisture of the bread, which will make them soft. If all efforts fail, you could even convert the cookies into a crumbled topping for another dessert. Nevertheless, burnt cookies are far from useless after a tragedy occurs, so don't miss an opportunity to save them (or to indulge in a chocolate chip classic).